Carlisle United 0 Grimsby Town 1: Thoughts of Brunton Park as a fortress can probably be parked for the foreseeable. Three successive home defeats without scoring suggests Carlisle’s ground has again become a land of opportunities for visiting sides, not the intended opposite.

It is also a run that has brought some reality to the brighter thoughts of recent weeks. League Two remains a highly changeable beast but this miserable loss to Grimsby was hardly an application for the top end of the division.

As against Tranmere and Stevenage, United were simply not good enough in the attacking third, and what made this result worse was the fact Michael Jolley’s side had lost their previous six league games on the spin.

Here, Luke Hendrie’s goal made the most of a generous first half of chances, and one of the country’s worst form teams then soaked up what Carlisle had to offer.

Summed up, that was: not very much. This did not look like a Blues side with much firepower, Richie Bennett’s absence limiting them further, and they will go nowhere unless John Sheridan can find ways to get more out of them at the business end of the pitch.

That will be a task for the training ground, it seems. Sheridan said there was no prospect of immediate additions to his low-budget numbers and much, it seems, depends on the results of a scan to Bennett's groin. At least Jerry Yates' suspension is now over, and United will gladly accept all the attacking help they can get.

A hinted-at shake-up of the starting line-up by Sheridan did not quite materialise, the same as Carlisle's search for a better Brunton Park outcome. Only one change, in the end: Regan Slater in for Bennett, the young loan midfielder making his first league start since the opening day.

As for Grimsby, five changes. Manager Jolley, inevitably under pressure, accepted the “brutal facts” of their recent form but also insisted he would not “catastrophise” their situation.

Making it an unlucky seven would perhaps have done that for him, but with United having their own inconsistency to deal with, what unfolded was an open first half in which both sides could easily have registered more than once, the visitors especially.

Those fans who always fear Carlisle’s age-old habits against teams out of sorts would not have been surprised that it was Grimsby who had the best of it. Playing some progressive football, they first passed their way into the box but Charles Vernam overran, Hendrie also shooting over.

A couple of minutes later, an even better glimpse of goal, JJ Hooper fed with a through ball but finding Adam Collin swiftly at his feet. Vernam couldn’t mop up the rebound and then Carlisle broke, Slater having an attempt blocked.

United had not yet settled and Grimsby were bolder than you might have expected of a side with their woes. On 10 minutes, Macaulay Gillesphey’s weak backpass turned into a through ball for Vernam, who Anthony Gerrard could not catch – but again, Collin came superbly to the rescue.

Carlisle sorely needed to plug these troubling holes and also connect their own attacking better to make the most of their keeper’s high standards. Jamie Devitt fed Ashley Nadesan, who forced a diving save from James McKeown. At the other end, they again failed to stop Wes Thomas being fed from the left, the experienced striker shooting narrowly wide.

Other attacks offered possibilities without anything like a decisive end. Hallam Hope aimed a cross a few inches too far behind Jack Sowerby as he arrived to head it. Devitt’s attempt to create something further ended with a heavy challenge from Alex Whitmore which took plenty of ball but also left lasting damage to the midfielder’s lower right leg. Gillesphey’s deflected free-kick tested McKeown, while Devitt limped off a few minutes later, Adam Campbell coming on.

That blow was swiftly followed by another. The fact is there are only so many chances you can give even a goal-shy team and, a few minutes after Hooper had missed a free header, United fell asleep at a throw-in on their right. Vernam was denied by Collin, but Hendrie, who had made the initial pass, arrived to sweep the next chance home.

“How bad must you be, we’re winning away,” is the cleaned-up version of what Grimsby’s supporters sang at this point. United’s own fans were no doubt formulating some interesting responses as a half that had become ragged went on.

There was very little, in its closing stages, that encouraged, a few misplaced passes killing attacks before they had started, the odd free-kick here and there, and only a bonus chance, the result of Nadesan’s chasing and Campbell’s cross – headed over by Sowerby – that hinted at anything better.

Serious conviction was absent, and half-time did not arrive quickly enough. United began the second period with a degree more urgency and their task was to see how jittery Grimsby might be in the unusual position of trying to close out a win.

A spate of corners produced little, though. United shouted for handball as a defender went to ground, and Parkes did well to block Hooper’s shot as the Mariners sailed upfield. Then another period of blue pressure saw Kelvin Etuhu have a shot saved.

Hope stumbled when in another useful position, Sowerby also lacking punch when fed by a curling Hope pass, and here was where Carlisle needed much more poise, against opponents sitting deeper and breaking less often.

Collin touched a Hooper cross away from danger as the Grimsby man got away from Etuhu, but more often the ball was in the visitors’ half, United dominating possession but groping for a bright idea. Sowerby made poor use of an opportunity he engineered from the right, shooting weakly at McKeown, while more than once a cross arrived in the box where there were simply no blue shirts.

Nadesan and Hope had shots blocked at source and the conversation was jammed on United’s lack of devil the longer all this went on. Campbell, with 15 minutes to go, had a serious chance, after Sowerby had fed the overlapping Gary Liddle, but a flying Grimsby body denied him. A Gillesphey header glanced the woodwork.

Experience and youth – fit-again Mike Jones and teenager Liam McCarron – were Sheridan’s substitute options for the closing stages, the youngster having an attempt blocked with a few minutes to go, testing McKeown with a low cross, hammering a shot against Reece Hall-Johnson and doing as much as anyone to salvage something at the death.

He could not, they could not, and Carlisle’s homesickness, it seems, has made an unwanted return: a dire advertisement, it must be said, in their attempt to get supporters flocking back.

United: Collin, Liddle, Gillesphey, Gerrard, Parkes, Slater (Jones 78), Etuhu, Devitt (Campbell 33), Sowerby (McCarron 78), Hope, Nadesan. Not used: Miller, Glendon, Adewusi, Egan.

Grimsby Town: McKeown, Hall-Johnson, Collins, Whitmore, Hendrie, Clifton, Embleton (Woolford 81), Rose, Vernam (Cardwell 90), Hooper, Thomas. Not used: Russell, Hessenthaler, Robles, Dixon, Pringle.

Goal: Hendrie 38

Booked: Hall-Johnson, Hendrie

Ref: Martin Coy

Crowd: 3,316 (143 Grimsby fans)